So, here I am, an exile from my spiritual home, but very happy in my acquired homeland of Seychelles where I came to settle in 1978, fresh from the turmoil of the Islamic Revolution whose fallout continues to work its ‘magic’ on a long succession of nations, now creating a crescent of instability running from Afghanistan clear through to North Africa. I cannot help but smile when I hear the words ‘Arab Spring’ because we thought that way in Iran, too. And just look what happened there…!!
Settling into Seychelles was pretty painless, although I was younger then and surmounted the challenges associated with living on D’arros Island, one of Seychelles’ Outer Islands, 140 miles south west of Mahe, with comparative ease.
One could hardly imagine a more different life from Iran where I first worked as an English tutor for the children of the Royal Family, the Pahlavis,eventually to become a private secretary to the nephew of the Shah, also part-timing as a Farsi (Persian language) translator for a number of different companies.
Work in Iran was very cerebral in nature, a logical extension of my life at the University of Manchester, where I studied oriental languages (Farsi and Arabic)..but was THAT about to change!
D’arros and the adjoining St. Joseph’s atoll was a sublimely beautiful collection of 9 islands encircling a magnificent turquoise lagoon right out of a picture postcard. Its mind-boggling beauty was only matched by its serenity and by the strangely comforting knowledge that the nearest, insignificant, human presence was some 30 miles away, on another small island. I believe that looking out from D’arros towards the amazing spectacle of those other islands surrounding our lagoon, was, psychologically speaking, a boon. One did not feel at all alone.
For some time, myself and the Shah’s nephew and his family (he had bought the island in 1975), in our profound naivety, awaited the ‘inevitable’ return to Iran. We listened to every BBC broadcast for news of a change in fortunes, only to learn how things were getting worse..far worse.
Eventually, the penny dropped; we were not going back but I was certainly not going back to England! Gradually, almost imperceptibly, the island life began to claim me. I started by learning to fish with a wonderful local named Laveaux, who would take me out in a single-engined boat far beyond the horizon to fish for shark. I believed him to be a skilled mechanic and only learned after several sorties that he did not have a bloody clue about engines, or boats for that manner. He just went fishing!
Next came scuba diving, where I benefited from the experience of Egbert Ollman, the resident German engineer, to learn that particular skill. Then came windsurfing, and before long I was surfing clear around the 20-odd kilometer circumference of the atoll, entering the lagoon’s bowl on the surf and camping out on one of the islands. I soon learned to hunt for my food and, over the years, I managed pretty well on a fare of giant mud crab, lobster, oysters and various coral fish. I learned to dodge the Lemon Sharks who posed quite a threat in the deeper water and the omnipresent stone fish, or ‘laff’, with their excruciatingly painful, and potentially fatal, stings.
I became the island paramedic, operating from a small clinic on D’arros, where I had some interesting moments stitching the wounds of the workers and even arresting troublesome characters and placing them in the island prison for the customary cooling-off period. It was like being Wyatt Earp in some wild-west town but, boy, was it fun! (TBC)